Following on the heels of Maxis's popular city-builder SimCity, Impressions Software's Caesar takes the idea quite a bit further with enhanced and more diverse game play and several welcome options. As history has shown, it's difficult to build an empire without some sort of "enemy at the gate" threat lurking. This empire builder addresses that problem by providing more than a dozen barbarian forces eager to trash your Roman city. While combat is not the most important aspect of Caesar, it acts as a simple diversion or insurance against monotony. Impressions Software developed a separate game, Cohort II, as a companion title to Caesar which allows an avenue for the battle-inclined player to conduct full scale warfare as an adjunct to the game.
The heart of designer David Lester's Caesar lies in the empire-building aspect. As a rising star in the Roman political structure, you serve as governor of one of many provinces. The Emperor himself judges your progress and performance in four major areas including peace (keeping citizens happy and barbarians away from the gates), culture (public venues such as hospitals, schools and temples), prosperity, and empire size. Many factors go into creating and maintaining a viable city and you need to pay attention to a full complement of available advisors (political, military, financial, treasurer, administrative, industrial and a tribune of your cheap labor force, the Plebians) . Roads, decent housing, easy access to water sources such as wells and fountains, reservoirs, public buildings (e.g., coliseums, bathhouses, plazas, theaters, hippodromes) , sufficient defense (military, barracks, walls, towers), and markets are just a handful of the plethora of basic city building blocks which must be learned and managed successfully. Unlike SimCity, Caesar invokes a much deeper sense of accomplishment since to be successful, you don't stop with just one city. As your ratings grow and your rewards (wealth and recognition) increase commensurate with your success, you are given additional provinces to manage, starting from scratch in each. The ultimate reward will be ascension to the title of Emperor. Failure to consistently maintain order by providing for the well being of the populace in all areas will result in riots, disgrace, censure or even the humiliation of exile.
Caesar employs a superb point-and-click interface for building all facets of your evolving city from roads to buildings and action is fast paced as the game is played in real time. Three main map views are available, each progressively more detailed, at Empire, Province and City (where most action occurs) levels. Lack of a "bulldozer" option is annoying but not critical. Expert management skills are required to successfully control provincial growth through astute taxation and balancing of all crucial factors. Winning Caesar is less important than the reward of satisfaction that comes with seeing your investment of hours and days of careful thought and planning pay big dividends as your cities grow and flourish. Playing Caesar successfully lends credence to the old adage that "Rome wasn't built in a day".
Graphics: A step up for Impressions Software compared to their earlier games. Small animation sequences lend life to the city although the sheer volume of buildings can cause confusion. Effective use of pop-up on-screen icon identifiers helps game play.
Sound: Repetitive uninspired music is one of the few detracting features of the game. Ambient sound effects as you scroll around your city add a touch of realism as water gurgles and the sounds of construction and crowds are evident.
Enjoyment: A game that will eat hours out of your life if you're not paying attention. Caesar is definitely not a cinch to win as it takes perseverance, attention to detail and a solid set of multi-task management skills.
Replay Value: Nearly unlimited replay value due to the vast array of choices and methods of approaching the city-building simulation including the choice of three difficulty levels. End results can vary drastically based on in-game management choices.
The first in the strategy series set in the Roman Empire's peak era starts off with you as ruler of a small province, although if you're successful you will get tougher assignments.
You must build the city, placing crucial features such as housing estates, roads, policing, water supply, social events and the like. You're not restricted to one city - you can build another area, linked by roads, once you've got the first one running smoothly. You have slaves at your disposal to build and maintain everything.
All this would be easy if you had an infinite supply of money, the civilians didn't complain about anything, there was no threat of combat, and you didn't have to keep the people above you happy. Needless to say, all of these problems crop up.
Via the forums, you will get public opinions, which are affected by how high taxes are, and whether people feel they're getting value for money. If they don't they could riot;- what will you tell the Emperor if that happens?
Barbarian threats are commonplace, so you need to maintain an army, and at times send it into battle. If you own Cohort II, you can fight the battles using that, but otherwise you just issue the orders then learn of the result.
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